“Doctor Who” returns with its tenth season after a year and a half since the last full season. This season is not only the last season for current Doctor Peter Capaldi, but also the current showrunner, Steven Moffat.
The British science-fiction show follows an alien traveler known only as The Doctor. He explores both time and space, visiting different time periods and planets. The season 10 premiere, “The Pilot,” is a bit of a slow burn but makes up for it with strong atmosphere and intriguing characters. Warning, minor spoilers ahead.
This time, The Doctor is accompanied by companions Nardole, played by Matt Lucas, returning from the last two Christmas specials and Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie. Bill marks the first lesbian companion in “Doctor Who.” Potts isn’t played as a stereotype but the fact that she’s gay isn’t just reduced a brief token mention either. She’s just a character who happens to be gay.
Potts works at the cafeteria at a university in Bristol. She catches the attention of a professor calling himself The Doctor. It turns out The Doctor is guarding something below the school. In typical “Doctor Who” fashion, the university finds itself invaded by a mysterious creature.
The episode is designed to be a jumping on point for newcomers. The original series ran from 1963 to 1989. The series was revived in 2005 with new production numbers. They started with season one as opposed to starting with season 25, which is where the old series left off.
Despite this, the old series is still considered continuity. This can be daunting for new viewers. Even the revived series has 10 seasons. So, every few seasons, the producers will write a season premiere that’s designed to explain the premise to a new audience while remaining interesting for old fans. “The Pilot” does a solid job of this.
The episode is told from Potts point of view. As the universe and the Doctor is explained to her, it’s explained to the audience.
Unfortunately, the episode itself has a slow pace, taking it’s sweet time to get to the plot. The fact this is a jumping-on point exasperates this problem, especially if one is already familiar with “Doctor Who.”
The episode makes up for it with some creepy atmosphere. It does a great job of building suspense and paranoia in the story. The production helps with it as the show is hot with high production values making it seem like a movie. Not just the sets and effects, but the cinematography.
The acting is amazing as well. Pearl brings an honest eagerness to her character while Capaldi continues to own the role of The Doctor.
The episode speeds plot points that will either be addressed later in the season or completely ignored. Either one is likely. Showrunner Moffat is great at writing individual episodes but his multi-episode arcs tend to fumble. As his last season working on the show, hopefully he’ll pull out all of the stops.